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Howard Motor Company Building
Pasadena, California


Howard Motor Company Building
courtesy of the city of Pasadena

“Churrigueresque” is the ornate, sculpted, baroque architectural style of the Howard Motor Company Building.  Popularized in Spain during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Churrigueresque was revived during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, San Diego.  In the years between World War I and World War II, the country entered the age of the automobile, and this high-relief style worked particularly well in the expanding California automotive market where dealers competed fiercely for attention and for sales.

Route 66 garages and dealerships like the Howard Motor Company are significant for many reasons.  Dealers sold, repaired, and sometimes even assembled the automobiles that crowded Route 66 and local roads by the middle of the 20th century.  Facilities like garages and dealerships provided tangible indicators of the social and economic changes generated by the highway and automobile usage generally, and their activities, appearance, and location were closely tied to factors such as highway designation, paving, changes in alignment, and local and national economics.  Pasadena, as an eventual terminus of Route 66, was well situated to host profitable automobile dealerships.

Most early Pasadena automobile dealers located their showrooms on Colorado Boulevard.  Two groupings developed: one on a two-block stretch of West Colorado Boulevard between Orange Grove Boulevard and downtown, and the other located in the then-geographic center of the city along East Colorado Boulevard between Lake and Hill Avenues.  Built in 1927, the Howard Motor Company Building was one of several auto-related buildings located along East Colorado Boulevard, and it was among the showiest.

With considerable growth in the automobile industry during the 1920s, competition among dealers was fierce.  It was not unusual for dealerships to move often, each time seeking a more elaborate or advantageous location.  When builders constructed the Howard Motor Company building in 1927, Churrigueresque was an apt choice.  The exterior of the building is richly ornamented. Corners are chamfered and topped with a broad ornamental frieze. Showroom windows and entry doors are recessed in a single elliptical arch, which spans the entire street facade.  The arch has a grooved mold that terminates in unusual scrolled imposts.

Though 1285 East Colorado was built for and used by the Howard Motor Company, it has also been occupied by several other automobile dealers and related businesses over the years.  The building remains a well-preserved example of its type and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Plan your visit
The Howard Motor Company Building is at 1285 East Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, CA.  It is currently vacant and closed to the public, but is easy to view from public right of ways.
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